Using Challenge Based Learning to meet Curricular Standards & Objectives

I love how students can bring their unique perspectives and interests to a Challenge Based Learning Big Idea. Educators can also focus on parts of the Framework to effectively achieve standards and curricular objectives. It’s easy to guide learners towards meeting objectives while also encouraging creativity, exploration and student voice.

For example teachers might introduce the Engage phase of CBL by sparking interest with an infographic, Keynote, iMovie or Clips, providing a direction for the Big Idea. They can also format the curricular objective as an Essential Question and encourage students to brainstorm ways to achieve that objective in the form of a Challenge.

Example: During April’s Earth Month, science and history classes frequently have content lessons based around the history and preservation of our National Parks.  This topic might be introduced with a Big Idea of Environmental Preservation. Sparking curiosity around the curricular theme is done with a pictographic from primary sources. The Essential Question is based on a content objective. Students then brainstorm their Challenge and create Guiding Questions. The teacher provides activities and resources as students move through the Investigate phase. (See 30 Creative Activities for Challenge Based Learning.)


Engage with a pictograph -Early cars in Yosemite National Park images from the HAER Collection - Library of Congress
Engage with a pictograph -Early cars in Yosemite National Park images from the HAER Collection - Library of Congress


Big Idea: Environmental Preservation

Essential Question: How can we preserve and protect National Parks [eg Yosemite] from the impact of traffic while still allowing for open, enjoyable and equitable access for visitors?

 Challenge: Propose and share an environmental action plan based on the history and impact of traffic in National Parks.


Guiding questions:

  • What is the history automobile access to National Parks?
  • What is the environmental impact of automobiles in National Parks?
  • How can we provide open parks for the public while still preserving the natural  environment?
  • In what ways can the public access National Parks and reduce the impact of automobiles?

Guiding Activities and Resources:

  • Interview National Park officials on the impact of automobiles. 
  • Create a infographic showing the growth of automobiles in a park.
  • Create a PSA that guides decision making on transportation to National Parks. 


The ACT phase of CBL can be a demonstration of their achievement and sharing knowledge with others beyond the classroom.

How do you approach planning for CBL projects that help to meet educational standards and objectives?


2 replies

July 11, 2024

This is awesome, similar to PBL, or inquiry-based learning. I really like the "challenge" format.

July 11, 2024

Thanks Celestine, that’s what I like about Challenge Based Learning too is the “Challenge”. It separates it from PBL with an action that learners have determined to take, once they have done the brainstorming, inquiry and research.

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